Air pollution is one of the leading causes of death around the world. But which cities and countries are the most polluted in the world? Smart Air analyzed 2020 air pollution data for 540 major cities from 182 countries around the world to produce the 2020 ranking of the “25 Most Polluted Cities in the World”.
Watch: Run Down of Top 5 Most Polluted Cities in the World
Scroll down below for the full run down of the world’s most polluted cities, and which countries they’re in:
Rankings: 25 Most Polluted Cities in the World
1. Ghaziabad, India
2. Lahore, Pakistan
3. Delhi, India
4. Lucknow, India
5. Muzaffarnagar, India
6. Dhaka, Bangladesh
7. Antakya, Turkey
8. Hapur, India
9. Peshawar, Pakistan
10. Kampala, Uganda
11. Anyang, China
12. Patna, India
13. Shijiazhuang, China
14. Xuchang, China
15. Xinxiang, China
16. Bamako, Mali
17. Zhengzhou, China
18. Manama, Bahrain
19. Taiyuan, China
20. Chandigarh, India
21. Xian, China
22. Tianjin, China
23. Kabul, Afghanistan
24. Jinan, China
25. Dushanbe, Tajikstan
Of the 25 most polluted cities in the world, 9 were located in China, while 7 were located in India. However, for the top 5 most polluted cities in the world, India topped the list. 4 of the top 5 most polluted cities in 2020 were in India.
All of the ranked cities had average air quality many times above the WHO recommended healthy limit. Many of the cities with the worst air quality are located in similar geographical areas on the globe. Other countries which featured in the list include Pakistan, the UAE and Uganda in Africa.
Some readers may note that only two cities in Africa – Kampala in Uganda, and Bamako in Mali – featured in the list. No cities or countries in South America were in the list. This does not mean that these cities aren’t polluted. Africa and South America lack air pollution reporting tools, so it is difficult to know the pollution levels on-the-ground in many of these cities.
The fact that so many Indian and Chinese cities featured in the list is testament to the fact that they have large and wide air pollution monitoring networks set up to detect pollution levels.
Air Pollution Heat Map Paints a Clearer Picture
Below is a pollution heat map from the WHO. WHO research shows that over 92% of people in the world are breathing unsafe air with high air pollution levels.
How Air Pollution Was Measured to Find Most Polluted Cities in World
There are various pollutants (both particles and gases) that can be found in the air. One of the most commonly tracked pollutants are very small, fine particles called PM2.5.
These small pollutants are under 2.5 micrograms in width and considered to be one of the more dangerous pollutants due to their ability to enter deep into the lungs and bloodstream. The above rankings of the most polluted cities in the world were ranked based on their 2020 average PM2.5 pollution levels.
As part of Smart Air’s open data pledge, the raw PM2.5 AQI 2020 world pollution data used for the rankings of the world’s most polluted cities are openly available to download.
How I Protect Myself
Smart Air is a certified B Corp committed to combating the myths big companies use to inflate the price of clean air.
Smart Air provides empirically backed, no-nonsense purifiers and masks, that remove the same particles as the big companies for a fraction of the cost. Only corporations benefit when clean air is a luxury.
For protection against air pollution, check out the Sqair!